I sat in the restaurant, munching my fish and chips. Almost out of nowhere, my friend complained, “Our church doesn’t teach enough doctrine.”
His remark startled me. I wasn’t so much startled because he said it for no apparent reason (we had been talking about the Welsh castle we’d visited earlier that day) as I was that he considered doctrine to have any serious significance. Looking back, I find it rather pathetic that I thought such a thing only a few weeks before graduating from a three-month Bible College (which incidentally didn’t teach much doctrine either), but in 1985 I believed that spiritual experiences were more important than dry theology. Being in a Charismatic school only reinforced my attitude.
The Lord has obviously corrected my erroneous thinking since that lunch in Wales. He’s brought me to a place of valuing sound doctrine as the very basis of a vibrant relationship with Christ. If we take another look at Titus 2:2-6, we’ll see that sound doctrine (or being sound in faith) is an important element of Christian maturity.
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so the word of God will not be dishonored.
6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (NASB95)
In verse 2, Paul wanted Titus to instruct older men to be sound, or healthy, in faith, love and perseverance. And verse 3 extends those instructions to older women. As we continue working through Titus 2:2-6, therefore, we understand that Paul’s commandments for Christian men also apply to Christian women. As a result, Christian women must be sound in faith, love and perseverance.
To understand the value of sound doctrine, let’s think about the castle in North Wales that my friend and I visited that day. Conway Castle, built between 1283 and 1297 by Edward I, has a nearly intact exterior, giving the impression that it’s structurally sound. As we ventured inside, however, we found rooms with only partial walls and hollow towers. In other words, ruins. The soundness we saw from the impressive outside concealed 700 years of erosion and decay. It had lost its original magnificence, degenerating into just another tourist attraction.
Christians who devalue the importance of sound doctrine resemble Conway Castle, now that I think of it. On the outside, they might look pretty solid, but once you get to know them, you notice little things that just don’t quite line up with Scripture. Often, those little inconsistencies erode into compromises, which in tum lead to areas of inner decay. That inner decay sometimes morphs into outright apostasy, while at other times it deceives a person into a counterfeit Christianity. That majestic exterior covers up spiritual rot.
Yes, I realize that there’s such a thing as dead orthodoxy. Conway Castle could just as easily be used as a metaphor describing someone who knows all the right doctrine in her head, but shows little evidence that Christ has transformed her heart. But that analogy shouldn’t negate the fact that Christians can’t experience true transformation without learning and obeying the sound doctrine of God’s Word.
Growing in our understanding of Biblical doctrine should deepen our love for Christ, causing us to desire to live in ways that honor Him. Doctrine, or teaching, that comes out of Scripture shows us Who God is and what He thinks. It transforms our minds, aligning us with His values and purposes. As we learn His ways, He brings us into personal holiness so that we increasingly reflect His character.
Real transformation, then, depends on having right teaching. While people can (and often do) present false facades of Christianity, if they lack a good understanding of Biblical doctrine their interior life will be as hollow as the towers of Conway Castle.
Paul asked Titus to make sure the older men and the younger men were sound in doctrine. Likewise, however, older and younger women were encouraged toward living lives reflective of Christ’s teaching. In becoming godly women, we must make certain that we learn sound doctrine and apply it properly. In so doing, we will bring honor to the Lord Jesus Christ.